Rapture, rain and really, really bad traffic. What do these things all have in common? They all tried to stop Muangthong fans turning out in force and all failed miserably.
Despite press reports suggesting injury worries for the champions, the line up was more or less full strength: Kawin (GK), Kayem (LB), Panupong (CB), Zesh (CB),Thiemba (RB), Pitchipong (MD), Datsakorn (MD), Siaka (MD), Narrapol Arrmomsawa (MD), Teerasi (ST), Christian (FW),
The first half was one way traffic. I wouldn't go so far as to say we put their goal under siege because Alahad's number seven did occasionally attack for the visitors, but there was no doubting our dominance. Chris in particular had the Lebanese defence in shreds and forced the visiting goalie into at least five saves in the first half alone. It really looked a matter of time but the goal wouldn't come. Surely we couldn't get sucker-punched?
In the second half we attacked the n-zone goal and after a goal by Chris that was (rightly) disallowed for offside, Teerasil got the breakthrough with a goal inside the box past the blindsided 'keeper.The relief was immense, but relief turned to outright jubilation when Arromsowa hit a low drive from the right to the goalie's (opposite) right to double the lead to 2-0. Christian grabbed the third goal and put the ball under his shirt, apparently telling us he was pregnant. Hey, if you score great goals then you can get pregnant every week as far as I'm concerned.
By now it was what I call: "party football". The match was over, everyone knew it and the home side started enjoying the game. A familiar theme last season, less so this time around. Anyway, the final moment of joy came from another Datsakorn "Le Tissier" Thonglao moment when he curled in a free kick from outside the box to make it four. There was only one threat to our clean sheet after that but Kawin rushed out to stop the striker breaking through. Game over. It could have been even more but we'll take this very happily, thanks.
Overall, an excellent team performance. Everyone looked fit and sharp even on the wet surface and it's surely no coincidence that Chris was back to his best with Teerasil returning alongside him. A clean sheet was delivered by the back line and the midfield opened the channels up superbly. However, with great respect to our hard-working and sporting opponents, they appeared no stronger than any of the group stage teams and I'm a little surprised they got this far. Now it's just the big boys left, mostly Arabic teams who gave us such tough games last year and make away fixtures so challenging. We have to go better than last year and take that trophy home. We're more than good enough to do it.
Man of the Match - Christrian Kouakou constantly terrified the visitors' defence with his footwork and zig-zag runs into the box.
Image credits: Jirawat Srikong